, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church (which is composed of the Latin Rite and the Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion
with the see
of Rome). In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter
, the Apostle. The current office-holder is Pope Benedict XVI
, who was elected in a papal conclave
on 19 April 2005.
The office of the pope is known as the Papacy.
314 Silvester I begins his reign as Pope of the Catholic Church, succeeding Pope Miltiades.
336 Pope Mark dies, leaving the papacy vacant.
904 Sergius III comes out of retirement to take over the papacy from the deposed antipope Christopher.
1048 Protestantism: The villagers around today's Baden-Baden elect their own priest in defiance of the local bishop. Later, in a move that would not be seen before the Protestant Reformation, he is also elected Pope by acclamatio, just to die that same day. It is rumored that Ildebrando di Soana heard of the acclamatio and used it later to get elected himself as Pope Gregory VII.
1215 King John of England makes an oath to Pope Innocent III as a crusader to gain his support.
1274 In France, the Second Council of Lyons opens to regulate the election of the Pope.
1294 Saint Celestine V resigns the papacy after only five months; Celestine hoped to return to his previous life as an ascetic hermit.
1294 Pope Boniface VIII is elected Pope, replacing St. Celestine V, who had resigned.
1527 Spanish and German troops sack Rome; some consider this the end of the Renaissance. 147 Swiss Guards, including their commander, die fighting the forces of Charles V in order to allow Pope Clement VII to escape into Castel Sant'Angelo.
1590 Pope Urban VII dies 13 days after being chosen as the Pope, making his reign the shortest papacy in history.
, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church (which is composed of the Latin Rite and the Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion
with the see
of Rome). In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter
, the Apostle. The current office-holder is Pope Benedict XVI
, who was elected in a papal conclave
on 19 April 2005.
The office of the pope is known as the Papacy. His ecclesiastical jurisdiction
is often called the "Holy See
" (Sancta Sedes in Latin), or the "Apostolic See
" based upon the Church tradition that the Apostles Saint Peter
and Saint Paul were martyr
ed in Rome. The pope is also head of state
of Vatican City
, a sovereign city-state
within the city of Rome.
Early popes helped to spread Christianity
and resolve doctrinal disputes. After the conversion
of the rulers of the Roman Empire
(the conversion of the populace was already advanced even before the Edict of Milan
, 313), the Roman emperor
s became the popes' secular allies until the 8th century when Pope Stephen II
was forced to appeal to the Franks
for help, beginning a period of close interaction with the rulers of the west. For centuries, the Donation of Constantine
, later proved to be a forgery, provided support for the papacy's claim of political supremacy over the entire former Western Roman Empire
. In medieval times, popes played powerful roles in Western Europe, often struggling with monarchs for control over the wide-ranging affairs of Church and state
, crowning emperor
was the first emperor crowned by a pope), and regulating disputes among secular rulers
Gradually forced to give up temporal power, popes now focus almost exclusively on religious matters. Over the centuries, papal claims of spiritual authority have been ever more clearly expressed, culminating in 1870 with the proclamation of the dogma
of papal infallibility
for rare occasions when the pope speaks ex cathedra
(literally "from the chair (of St. Peter)") to issue a formal definition of faith
or morals. The first (after the proclamation) and so far the last such occasion was in 1950, with the definition of the dogma of the Assumption of Mary
Title and etymologyThe word pope derives from Greek
πάππας meaning "Father". This title was first assumed by the Patriarchs of Alexandria, long before it was assumed by the Bishops of Rome. In fact, the first to carry the title of pope was the Patriarch of Alexandria, Pope Heracleus (232–49 AD), the 13th Alexandrine Patriarch. Papa has been the specific designation for the Archbishop of Alexandria, Patriarch of Egypt, and the See of Saint Mark, whose ecclessiastic title is "Papa Abba", the Abba stands for the devotion of all monastics, from Pentapolis
in the West to Constantinople
in the East, to his guidance. Abba is the most powerful designation, that for all monks in the East to voluntarily follow his spiritual authority. The first record in history of the term "pope" is assigned to Pope Heraclas of Alexandria in a letter written by the bishop of Rome, Dionysius, to Philemon:
Which translates into:
According to the Oxford English Dictionary
, the earliest recorded use of the title 'pope' in English is in an Old English translation (c. 950) of Bede
's Ecclesiastical History of the English People:
In Modern English:
It is difficult to ascertain the identity of the first Bishop of Rome to carry the title Pope of Rome. Some sources suggest that it was Pope Marcellinus
(d. 304 AD), while other sources suggest that this did not happen until the 6th century, with Pope John I
(523–6 AD) the first to assume this title. Bestowing the title on Rome's Pontiff did not strip it from Alexandria's, and the Roman Catholic Church recognizes this ecclesiastical fact. From the 6th century, the imperial chancery of Constantinople normally reserved this designation for the Bishop of Rome. From the early 6th century, it began to be confined in the West to the Bishop of Rome, a practice that was firmly in place by the 11th century, when Pope Gregory VII declared it reserved for the Bishop of Rome.
Catholics recognize the pope as a successor to Saint Peter
, whom, according to Roman Catholic teaching, Jesus
named as the "shepherd" and "rock" of the Catholic Church, which according to Catholic dogma is the one true Church
founded by Christ. Peter never bore the title of "pope", which came into use three centuries later, but Catholics traditionally recognize him as the first pope, while official declarations of the Church only speak of the popes as holding within the college of the Bishops a role analogous to that held by Peter within the college of the Apostles, of which the college of the Bishops, a distinct entity, is the successor.
Protestants generally agree that Jesus singled out Peter as the focal point of the first-century church. However, they contend that the New Testament offers no proof that Jesus established the papacy nor even that he established Peter as the first bishop of Rome. The Catholic Church teaches that Jesus personally appointed Peter as leader of the Church and in its dogmatic constitution Lumen Gentium
makes a clear distinction between apostles and bishops, presenting the latter as the successors of the former, with the pope as successor of Peter in that he is head of the bishops as Peter was head of the apostles. Some historians have argued that the notion that Peter was the first bishop of Rome and founded the episcopal see there can be traced back no earlier than the 3rd century. The writings of the Church Father Irenaeus
who wrote around 180 AD reflect a belief that Peter "founded and organised" the Church at Rome. Moreover, Irenaeus was not the first to write of Peter's presence in the early Roman Church. Clement of Rome wrote in a letter to the Corinthians, c. 96 about the persecution of Christians in Rome as the "struggles in our time" and presented to the Corinthians its heroes, "first, the greatest and most just columns, the "good apostles" Peter and Paul. St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote shortly after Clement and in his letter from the city of Smyrna to the Romans he said he would not command them as Peter and Paul did. Given this and other evidence, many scholars agree that Peter was martyred in Rome under Nero, although some scholars argue that he may have been martyred in Palestine.
Various Christian communities would have had a group of presbyter-bishops functioning as leaders of their local churches. Gradually, episcopacies were established in metropolitan areas. It has been conjectured that Antioch, where Peter was before he went to Rome, may have been one of the first Christian communities to have adopted such a structure. In Rome there were many who claimed to be the rightful bishop though again Irenaeus stressed the validity of one line of bishops from the time of St. Peter up to his contemporary Pope Victor I
and listed them. Some writers claim that the emergence of a single bishop in Rome probably did not occur until the middle of the 2nd century. In their view, Linus, Cletus and Clement were possibly prominent presbyter-bishops but not necessarily monarchical bishops. This would not affect their authority as popes in Catholic Theology.
The Holy See was accorded prominence in the early Church period in issues related to matters of the whole Catholic Church.
Early Christianity (c. 30–325)It seems that at first the terms 'episcopos' and 'presbyter' were used interchangeably. The consensus among scholars has been that, at the turn of the 1st and 2nd centuries, local congregations were led by bishops and presbyters whose offices were overlapping or indistinguishable. There was probably no single 'monarchical' bishop in Rome before the middle of the 2nd century ... and likely later." Other scholars and historians disagree, citing the historical records of St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Irenaeus who recorded the linear succession of Bishops of Rome (the popes) up until their own times. They also cite the importance accorded to the popes in the ecumenical councils, including the early ones.
In the early Christian era, Rome and a few other cities had claims on the leadership of worldwide Catholic Church. James the Just
, known as "the brother of the Lord", served as head of the Jerusalem church, which is still honored as the "Mother Church" in Orthodox tradition. Alexandria had been a center of Jewish learning and became a center of Christian learning. Rome had a large congregation early in the apostolic period whom Paul the Apostle addressed in his Epistle to the Romans
, and according to tradition Paul was martyred there.
During the 1st century of the Church (ca. 30–130), the Roman capital became recognized as a Christian center of exceptional importance. Pope Clement I
at the end of the 1st century wrote an epistle to the Church in Corinth intervening in a major dispute, and apologizing for not having taken action earlier. However, there are only a few other references of that time to recognition of the authoritative primacy
of the Roman See
outside of Rome. In the Ravenna Document of 13 October 2007, theologians chosen by the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Churches stated: "41. Both sides agree… that Rome, as the Church that 'presides in love' according to the phrase of St Ignatius of Antioch
(To the Romans, Prologue), occupied the first place in the taxis, and that the bishop
of Rome was therefore the protos among the patriarchs. They disagree, however, on the interpretation of the historical evidence from this era regarding the prerogatives of the Bishop of Rome as protos, a matter that was already understood in different ways in the first millennium." In addition, in the last years of the 1st century AD the Church in Rome intervened
in the affairs of the Christian Church in Corinth to help solve their internal disputes.
Later in the 2nd century AD, there were more manifestations of Roman authority over other churches. In 189 AD, assertion of the primacy of the Church of Rome may be indicated in Irenaeus of Lyons's Against Heresies
(3:3:2): "With [the Church of Rome], because of its superior origin, all the churches must agree... and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition." In 195 AD, Pope Victor I
, in what is seen as an exercise of Roman authority over other churches, excommunicated the Quartodecimans for observing Easter on the 14th of Nisan, the date of the Jewish Passover
, a tradition handed down by St. John the Evangelist
(see Easter controversy
). Celebration of Easter on a Sunday, as insisted on by the pope, is the system that has prevailed (see computus
Early popes helped spread Christianity and resolve doctrinal disputes.
Nicaea to East-West Schism (325–1054)During these seven centuries, the church unified by Emperor Constantine within his empire effectively split first, after the 451 Council of Chalcedon
, into Chalcedonian Christianity and Oriental Orthodoxy
, and then, after the 1054 East-West Schism
, into a Greek East and Latin West. In the West, the pope became independent of the Emperor in the East and became a major force in politics there.
Imperial capitals: Rome and ConstantinopleWith the conversion of Roman Emperor Constantine
to Christianity and the Council of Nicea
, the Christian religion received imperial sanction.
At the time of the Council (325), Rome was still seen as the capital of the empire, although the emperor rarely lived there. With the establishment of a new fixed capital in Constantinople
(330), there arose a new center, which quickly grew in prominence, rivaling those in Rome, Alexandria and Antioch, which previously had been the most important centers of Christianity.
Of these, Rome claimed the principal place, as illustrated by Pope Leo the Great
's statement, in about 446, that "the care of the universal Church should converge towards Peter's one seat, and nothing anywhere should be separated from its Head", clearly articulating the expansion of papal authority as doctrine, and promulgating his right to exercise "the full range of apostolic powers that Jesus had first bestowed on the apostle Peter".
The early ecumenical council
s, especially the First Council of Constantinople
(381), affirmed the importance of the Bishop of Rome's position, though all the councils in the Church's early history took place in cities in the East, and the pope did not personally attend the council in 381. At the ecumenical Council of Chalcedon
in 451, Leo I (through his emissaries) stated that he was "speaking with the voice of Peter". At this same council, the Bishop of Constantinople was given "equal privileges" to those of the Bishop of Rome, because "Constantinople is the New Rome". Pope Leo rejected this decree on the ground that it contravened the sixth canon of Nicaea and infringed the rights of Alexandria and Antioch.
Gregory's successors were largely dominated by the exarch or the Eastern emperor. These humiliations, the weakening of the Empire in the face of Muslim expansion, and the inability of the Emperor to protect the papal estates made Pope Stephen II turn from the Emperor. Seeking protection against the Lombards and getting no help from Emperor Constantine V, the pope appealed to the Franks to protect his lands. Pepin the Short subdued the Lombards
and donated Italian land to the Papacy. When Leo III crowned Charlemagne
(800), he established the precedent that no man would be emperor without anointment by a pope.
Around 850, a forger, probably from among the French opposers of Hincmar, Archbishop
made a collection of church legislation that contained forgeries and genuine documents. At first some attacked it as false, but it was taken as genuine throughout the rest of the Middle Ages
It is now known as the False Decretals. It was part of a series of falsifications of previous legislation by a party in the Carolingian Empire whose primary aim was to free the church and the bishops from interference by the state and the metropolitan archbishops respectively, and who were concerned for papal supremacy as guaranteeing those rights. The author, a French cleric calling himself Isidore Mercator, created false documents purportedly by early church popes, demonstrating that supremacy of the papacy dated back to the church's oldest traditions. The decretals include the Donation of Constantine
, in which Constantine
grants Pope Sylvester I secular authority over all Western Europe. Thanks to this forgery in the collection, the decretals became one of the most persuasive forgeries in the history of the West. It supported Papal policies for centuries.
Pope Nicholas I
(858–67) asserted that the pope should have suzerain authority over all Christians, even royalty, in matters of faith and morals. Only Photius, bishop of Constantinople, dared gainsay him. After his death, the authority of the papacy was acknowledged more widely than ever before.
The low point of the Papacy was 867–1049. The Papacy came under the control of vying political factions. Popes were variously imprisoned, starved, killed and deposed by force. The family of a certain papal official made and unmade popes for fifty years. The official's great-grandson, Pope John XII
, held orgies of debauchery in the Lateran palace. Emperor Otto I of Germany had John accused in an ecclesiastical court, which deposed him and elected a layman as Pope Leo VIII
. John mutilated the Imperial representatives in Rome and had himself reinstated as pope. Conflict between the Emperor and the papacy continued, and eventually dukes in league with the emperor were buying bishops and popes almost openly.
In 1049, Leo IX became pope, at last a pope with the character to face the papacy's problems. He traveled to the major cities of Europe to deal with the church's moral problems firsthand, notably the sale of church offices or services (simony
) and clerical marriage and concubinage. With his long journey, he restored the prestige of the Papacy in the north.
East–West Schism to Reformation (1054–1517)
, and driving into Greek Italy.
In the Middle Ages
, popes struggled with monarchs over power.
From 1309 to 1377, the pope resided not in Rome but in Avignon
. The Avignon Papacy
was notorious for greed and corruption. During this period, the pope was effectively an ally of France, alienating France's enemies, such as England.
The pope was understood to have the power to draw on the "treasury" of merit built up by the saints and by Christ, so that he could grant indulgences, reducing one's time in purgatory
. The concept that a monetary fine or donation accompanied contrition, confession, and prayer eventually gave way to the common assumption that indulgences depended on a simple monetary contribution. The popes condemned misunderstandings and abuses, but were too pressed for income to exercise effective control over indulgences.
Popes also contended with the cardinals, who sometimes attempted to assert the authority of councils over the pope's. Conciliar theory holds that the supreme authority of the church lies with a General Council, not with the pope. Its foundations were laid early in the 13th century, and it culminated in the 15th century. The failure of the conciliar theory to gain broad acceptance after the 15th century is taken as a factor in the Protestant Reformation.
Various anti-popes challenged papal authority, especially during the Western Schism
(1378–1417). In this schism, the papacy had returned to Rome from Avignon, but an anti-pope was installed in Avignon, as if to extend the papacy there.
The Eastern Church continued to decline with the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, undercutting Constantinople's claim to equality with Rome. Twice an Eastern Emperor tried to force the Eastern Church to reunify with the West. Papal claims of superiority were a sticking point in reunification, which failed in any event. In the 15th century, the Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople.
Reformation to present (1517 to today)
Popes instituted a Catholic Reformation
(1560–1648), which addressed challenges of the Protestant Reformation
and instituted internal reforms. Pope Paul III (1534–49) initiated the Council of Trent
(1545–63), whose definitions of doctrine and whose reforms sealed the triumph of the Papacy over elements in the church that sought conciliation with Protestants and opposed Papal claims.
Gradually forced to give up secular power, popes focused on spiritual issues.
In 1870, the First Vatican Council
proclaimed the dogma
of papal infallibility
for those rare occasions the pope speaks ex cathedra
(literally "from the chair (of Peter)") when issuing a solemn definition of faith
Later in the same year, Victor Emmanuel II seized Rome
from the pope's control and substantially completed the unification of Italy. The Papal States that the pope lost had been used to support papal independence.
In 1929, the Lateran Treaty between Italy and Pope Pius XI established the Vatican City State, guaranteeing papal independence from secular rule.
In 1950, the pope defined the Assumption of Mary
as dogma, the only time that a pope has spoken ex cathedra since papal infallibility was explicitly declared.
The Petrine Doctrine
is still controversial as an issue of doctrine that continues to divide the eastern and western churches and separate Protestants from Rome.
Saint Peter and the origin of the officeThe dogma
s and traditions of the Roman Catholic Church
teach that the institution of the papacy was first mandated by interpretations of several Biblical passages, mainly Matthew 16:13–19:Also Isaiah 22:20–22, John 21:15–17, Luke 12:41, and Luke 22:31–32.
Catholics believe that this passage shows Jesus establishing his church on the shoulders of Simon son of John (Peter). The Catholic scholarly community agrees with the church's interpretation that the "rock" Jesus refers to in this passage is Peter. An interpretation that some scholars agree with.
Since the Protestant reformation, Protestant scholars have asserted that the "rock" Jesus referred to was Jesus himself or Peter's faith. The argument follows that, when Jesus says, "You are Peter ((Petros), small stone as a pebble), and upon this rock (petra), a large stone edifice as a cliff or ledge) I will build my Church." Jesus is pointing to something much larger than Peter, based on the clear distinction in the Greek of a small stone and a large rock cliff as well as the Greek grammatical structure, as the basis for His kingdom and not making a pope of Peter as the Papists claim. The truth that Peter affirmed in verse 16 is that Jesus is Christ and faith in Him serves as the foundation of the Church and the whole set of the apostles teaching not solely or even mainly, little pebble, that is Peter. Other's, using Peter's own word's which shows understanding that Christ intended Himself as the foundation of the church and not Peter. Others have argued more thoroughly that the church is indeed built upon Jesus Himself and Faith but also on the disciples as the roots and foundations of the church on the basis of Paul's teaching in Romans and Ephesians, though, not primarily Peter
The reference to the "keys of the kingdom of heaven" here is the basis for the symbolic keys often found in Catholic papal symbolism, such as in the Vatican Coat of Arms (see below).
ElectionThe pope was originally chosen by those senior clergy
men resident in and near Rome. In 1059 the electorate was restricted to the Cardinals
of the Holy Roman Church, and the individual votes of all Cardinal Electors were made equal in 1179. Pope Urban VI
, elected 1378, was the last pope who was not already a cardinal at his election. Canon law
requires that if a layman or non-bishop is elected, he receives episcopal consecration from the Dean of the College of Cardinals
before assuming the Pontificate. Under present canon law, the pope is elected by the cardinal electors, comprising those cardinals who are under the age of 80.
The Second Council of Lyons was convened on 7 May 1274, to regulate the election of the pope. This Council decreed that the cardinal electors must meet within ten days of the pope's death, and that they must remain in seclusion until a pope has been elected; this was prompted by the three-year Sede Vacante
following the death of Pope Clement IV
in 1268. By the mid-16th century, the electoral process had evolved into its present form, allowing for variation in the time between the death of the pope and the meeting of the cardinal electors.
Traditionally, the vote was conducted by acclamation
, by selection (by committee), or by plenary vote. Acclamation was the simplest procedure, consisting entirely of a voice vote, and was last used in 1621. Pope John Paul II
abolished vote by acclamation and by selection by committee, and henceforth all Popes will be elected by full vote of the Sacred College of Cardinals
, in a sequestered meeting called a "conclave
" (so called because the cardinal electors are theoretically locked in, cum clave, i.e., with key, until they elect a new pope). Three cardinals are chosen by lot to collect the votes of absent cardinal electors (by reason of illness), three are chosen by lot to count the votes, and three are chosen by lot to review the count of the votes. The ballots are distributed and each cardinal elector writes the name of his choice on it and pledges aloud that he is voting for "one whom under God I think ought to be elected" before folding and depositing his vote on a plate atop a large chalice placed on the altar (in the 2005 conclave, a special urn was used for this purpose instead of a chalice and plate). The plate is then used to drop the ballot into the chalice, making it difficult for electors to insert multiple ballots. Before being read, the ballots are counted while still folded; if the number of ballots does not match the number of electors, the ballots are burned unopened and a new vote is held. Otherwise, each ballot is read aloud by the presiding Cardinal, who pierces the ballot with a needle and thread, stringing all the ballots together and tying the ends of the thread to ensure accuracy and honesty. Balloting continues until a Pope is elected by a two-thirds majority.
, church bells were also rung to signal that a new pope had been chosen.
The Dean of the College of Cardinals then asks two solemn questions of the cardinal who has been elected. First he asks, "Do you freely accept your election?" If he replies with the word "Accepto", his reign as Pope begins at that instant, not at the inauguration ceremony several days afterward. The Dean then asks, "By what name shall you be called?" The new pope then announces the regnal name
he has chosen. (If the Dean is elected pope, the Vice Dean performs this task.)
The new pope is led through the "Door of Tears" to a dressing room where three sets of white papal vestments (immantatio) await: small, medium, and large. Donning the appropriate vestments and reemerging into the Sistine Chapel, the new pope is given the "Fisherman's Ring
" by the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, whom he first either reconfirms or reappoints. The pope then assumes a place of honor as the rest of the cardinals wait in turn to offer their first "obedience" (adoratio) and to receive his blessing.
The Senior Cardinal Deacon then announces from a balcony over St. Peter's Square the following proclamation
: Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum! Habemus Papam! ("I announce to you a great joy! We have a pope!"). He then announces the new pope's Christian name along with his newly chosen regnal name.
Until 1978 the pope's election was followed in a few days by the Papal Coronation
. A procession with great pomp and circumstance formed from the Sistine Chapel
to St. Peter's Basilica
, with the newly elected pope borne in the sedia gestatoria
. There, after a solemn Papal Mass
, the new pope was crowned with the triregnum
(papal tiara) and he gave for the first time as pope the famous blessing Urbi et Orbi
("to the City [Rome] and to the World"). Another renowned part of the coronation was the lighting of a bundle of flax
at the top of a gilded pole, which would flare brightly for a moment and then promptly extinguish, with the admonition Sic transit gloria mundi
("Thus passes worldly glory"). A similar warning against papal hubris made on this occasion was the traditional exclamation "Annos Petri non videbis", reminding the newly crowned Pope that he would not live to see his rule lasting as long as that of St. Peter, who according to tradition headed the church for 35 years and has thus far been the longest reigning Pope in the history of the Catholic Church.
A traditionalist Catholic
belief claims the existence of a Papal Oath sworn, at their coronation, by all popes from Pope Agatho
to Pope Paul VI
, but which since the abolition of the coronation ceremony is no longer used. There is no reliable authority for this claim.
term sede vacante ("while the see is vacant") refers to a papal interregnum
, the period between the death of a pope and the election of his successor. From this term is derived the term sedevacantism
, which designates a category of dissident Catholics who maintain that there is no canonically and legitimately elected Pope, and that there is therefore a Sede Vacante. One of the most common reasons for holding this belief is the idea that the reforms of the Second Vatican Council
and especially the replacement of the Tridentine Mass
with the Mass of Paul VI
are heretical, and that those responsible for initiating and maintaining these changes are heretics and not true popes. Sedevacantists are considered to be schismatics by the mainstream Roman Catholic Church.
For centuries, from 1378 on, those elected to the papacy were predominantly Italians. Prior to the election of the Polish cardinal Karol Wojtyla as Pope John Paul II in 1978, the last non-Italian was Pope Adrian VI
of the Netherlands, elected in 1522. John Paul II was followed by the German-born Benedict XVI, leading some to believe that, although Rome is in Italy, Italian domination of the papacy is over.
DeathThe current regulations regarding a papal interregnum
—that is, a sede vacante
("vacant seat")—were promulgated by John Paul II in his 1996 document Universi Dominici Gregis
. During the "Sede Vacante", the Sacred College of Cardinals
, composed of the pope's principal advisors and assistants, is collectively responsible for the government of the Church and of the Vatican itself, under the direction of the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church; however, canon law specifically forbids the cardinals from introducing any innovation in the government of the Church during the vacancy of the Holy See
. Any decision that requires the assent of the pope has to wait until the new pope has been elected and accepts office.
In recent centuries it was traditional, when a Pope was judged to have died, for the Cardinal Chamberlain to confirm the death ceremonially by gently tapping the Pope's head thrice with a silver hammer, calling his birth name each time. This custom was not followed at the death of Pope John Paul I and was not revived upon the death of Pope John Paul II. The Cardinal Chamberlain then retrieves the Ring of the Fisherman
and cuts it in two in the presence of the Cardinals. The deceased pope's seals are defaced, to keep them from ever being used again, and his personal apartment is sealed.
The body then lies in state for several days before being interred in the crypt
of a leading church or cathedral; the popes of the 20th century were all interred in St. Peter's Basilica
. A nine-day period of mourning (novendialis) follows the interment of the late Pope.
ResignationThe Code of Canon Law 332 §2 states, "If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone."
Official list of titlesThe official list of titles of the Pope, in the order in which they are given in the Annuario Pontificio
, is: Bishop of Rome
, Vicar of Jesus Christ
, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate
of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan
of the Roman Province
, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City
, Servant of the Servants of God
The official list of titles does not include all the titles that are officially used.
PopeThe best-known title of the Popes, that of "Pope", does not appear in the official list, but is commonly used in the titles of documents, and appears, in abbreviated form, in their signatures. Thus Pope Paul VI
signed as "Paulus PP. VI", the "PP." standing for "Papa" ("Pope").
The title "Pope" was from the early 3rd century an honorific designation used for any bishop in the West. In the East it was used only for the Bishop of Alexandria. Pope Marcellinus
(d. 304) is the first Bishop of Rome shown in sources to have had the title "Pope" used of him. From the 6th century, the imperial chancery of Constantinople
normally reserved this designation for the Bishop of Rome. From the early 6th century, it began to be confined in the West to the Bishop of Rome, a practice that was firmly in place by the 11th century, when Pope Gregory VII
declared it reserved for the Bishop of Rome.
In Eastern Christianity
, where the title "pope" is used also of the Bishop of Alexandria, the Bishop of Rome is often referred to as the "Pope of Rome", regardless of whether the speaker or writer is in communion with Rome or not.
Vicar of Jesus Christ"Vicar of Jesus Christ" (Vicarius Iesu Christi) is one of the official titles of the Pope given in the Annuario Pontificio. It is commonly used in the slightly abbreviated form "Vicar of Christ" (Vicarius Christi). While it is only one of the terms with which the Pope is referred to as "vicar", it is "more expressive of his supreme headship of the Church on earth, which he bears in virtue of the commission of Christ and with vicarial power derived from him", a vicarial power believed to have been conferred on Saint Peter when Christ said to him: "Feed my lambs. . . . Feed my sheep" .
The first record of the application of this title to a Pope appears in a synod of 495 with reference to Pope Gelasius I
. But at that time, and down to the 9th century, other bishops too referred to themselves as vicars of Christ, and for another four centuries this description was sometimes used of kings and even judges, as it had been used in the 5th and 6th centuries to refer to the Byzantine emperor. Earlier still, in the 3rd century, Tertullian
used "vicar of Christ" to refer to the Holy Spirit
sent by Jesus. Its use specifically for the Pope appears in the 13th century in connection with the reforms of Pope Innocent III
, as can be observed already in his 1199 letter to Leo I, King of Armenia. Other historians suggest that this title was already used in this way in association with the pontificate of Pope Eugenius III (1145–1153).
This title "Vicar of Christ" is thus not used of the Pope alone and has been used of all bishops since the early centuries. The Second Vatican Council
referred to all bishops as "vicars and ambassadors of Christ", and this description of the bishops was repeated by Pope John Paul II
in his encyclical Ut unum sint, 95. The difference is that the other bishops are vicars of Christ for their own local churches, the Pope is vicar of Christ for the whole Church.
On at least one occasion the title "Vicar of God" (a reference to Christ as God) was used of the Pope.
The title "Vicar of Peter" (Vicarius Petri) is used only of the Pope, not of other bishops. Variations of it include: "Vicar of the Prince of the Apostles" (Vicarius Principis Apostolorum) and "Vicar of the Apostolic See" (Vicarius Sedis Apostolicae). Saint Boniface
described Pope Gregory II
as vicar of Peter in the oath of fealty that he took in 722. In today's Roman Missal
, the description "vicar of Peter" is found also in the collect
of the Mass
for a saint who was a pope.
PontiffThe term "pontiff
" is derived from the Latin
word pontifex, which literally means "bridge builder" (pons + facere), and which designated a member of the principal college of priests
in ancient Rome. The Latin word was translated into ancient Greek variously: as ἱεροδιδάσκαλος, ἱερονόμος, ἱεροφύλαξ, ἱεροφάντης, or ἀρχιερεύς (high priest) The head of the college was known as the Pontifex Maximus
(the greatest pontiff).
In Christian use, pontifex appears in the Vulgate
translation of the New Testament
to indicate the Jewish high priest (in the original, ἀρχιερεύς). The term came to be applied to any Christian bishop
, but since the 11th century commonly refers specifically to the Bishop of Rome, who is more strictly called the "Roman Pontiff". The use of the term to refer to bishops in general is reflected in the terms "Roman Pontifical
" (a book containing rites reserved for bishops, such as confirmation and ordination
) and "pontificals" (the insignia of bishops).
The Annuario Pontificio lists as one of the official titles of the Pope that of "Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church" (in Latin, Summus Pontifex Ecclesiae Universalis). He is also commonly called the Supreme Pontiff or the Sovereign Pontiff (in Latin, Summus Pontifex).
Pontifex Maximus, similar in meaning to Summus Pontifex, is a title commonly found in inscriptions on buildings, paintings, statues and coins of the Popes, usually abbreviated as "Pont. Max" or "P.M." The office of pontifex maximus
, or head of the college of pontiffs
, was held by Julius Caesar
and thereafter by the Roman emperors until Gratian
(375-383) relinquished it. Tertullian
, when he had become a Montanist, used the title derisively of either the Pope or the Bishop of Carthage. The Popes began to use this title regularly only in the 15th century.
Servant of the Servants of GodThe title "Servant of the Servants of God", although used by Church leaders including St. Augustine
and St. Benedict, was first used by Pope St. Gregory the Great
in his dispute with the Patriarch of Constantinople after the latter assumed the title "Ecumenical Patriarch". It was not reserved for the pope until the 13th century. The documents of the Second Vatican Council
reinforced the understanding of this title as a reference to the pope's role as a function of collegial authority, in which the Bishop of Rome serves the world's bishops.
Patriarch of the WestFrom 1863 until 2005, the Annuario Pontificio included also the title "Patriarch
of the West". This title was first used by Pope Theodore I
in 642, and was only used occasionally. Indeed, it did not begin to appear in the pontifical yearbook until 1863. On 22 March 2006, the Vatican released a statement explaining this omission on the grounds of expressing a "historical and theological reality" and of "being useful to ecumenical dialogue". The title Patriarch of the West symbolized the pope's special relationship with, and jurisdiction over, the Latin Church—and the omission of the title neither symbolizes in any way a change in this relationship, nor distorts the relationship between the Holy See and the Eastern Churches, as solemnly proclaimed by the Second Vatican Council.
Other titlesOther titles commonly used are "His Holiness", "Holy Father". In Spanish and Italian, "Beatísimo/Beatissimo Padre" (Most Blessed Father) is often used in preference to "Santísimo/Santissimo Padre" (Most Holy Father). In the medieval period
, "Dominus Apostolicus" ("the Apostolic
Lord") was also used.
SignatureAs indicated above, a Pope normally signs documents using the title "Papa" in the abbreviated form "PP." and with the numeral, as in "Benedictus PP. XVI" (Pope Benedict XVI). Exceptions are bulls
of canonization and decrees of ecumenical councils, which the Pope signs with the formula, "Ego N. Episcopus Ecclesiae catholicae", without the numeral, as in "Ego Paulus Episcopus Ecclesiae catholicae" (I, Paul, Bishop of the catholic/universal Church). The Pope's signature is followed, in bulls of canonization, by those of all the cardinals resident in Rome, and in decrees of ecumenical councils, by the signatures of the other bishops participating in the council, each signing as Bishop of a particular see.
s are headed N. Episcopus Servus Servorum Dei
("Name, Bishop, Servant of the Servants of God"). In general, they are not signed by the Pope, but Pope John Paul II
introduced in the mid-1980s the custom by which the Pope signs not only bulls of canonization but also, using his normal signature, such as "Benedictus PP. XVI", bulls of nomination of bishops.
Regalia and insignia
- "TriregnumPapal TiaraThe Papal Tiara, also known incorrectly as the Triple Tiara, or in Latin as the Triregnum, in Italian as the Triregno and as the Trirègne in French, is the three-tiered jewelled papal crown, supposedly of Byzantine and Persian origin, that is a prominent symbol of the papacy...
", also called the "tiara" or "triple crown", represents the pope's three functions as "supreme pastor", "supreme teacher" and "supreme priest". Recent popes have not, however, worn the triregnum, though it remains the symbol of the papacy and has not been abolished. In liturgical ceremonies Popes wear an episcopal mitreMitreThe mitre , also spelled miter, is a type of headwear now known as the traditional, ceremonial head-dress of bishops and certain abbots in the Roman Catholic Church, as well as in the Anglican Communion, some Lutheran churches, and also bishops and certain other clergy in the Eastern Orthodox...
(an erect cloth hat).
- Pastoral Staff topped by a crucifixCrucifixA crucifix is an independent image of Jesus on the cross with a representation of Jesus' body, referred to in English as the corpus , as distinct from a cross with no body....
, a custom established before the 13th century (see papal crossPapal CrossThe papal cross or ferula is the pastoral staff used by the Pope. This is in contrast to other bishops, who use a crozier.The pastoral staff carried by the popes since Pope Paul VI is a contemporary single-barred cross, designed by the Italian artist Lello Scorzelli and carried in the same manner...
- PalliumPalliumThe pallium is an ecclesiastical vestment in the Roman Catholic Church, originally peculiar to the Pope, but for many centuries bestowed by him on metropolitans and primates as a symbol of the jurisdiction delegated to them by the Holy See. In that context it has always remained unambiguously...
, or pall, a circular band of fabric worn around the neck over the chasubleChasubleThe chasuble is the outermost liturgical vestment worn by clergy for the celebration of the Eucharist in Western-tradition Christian Churches that use full vestments, primarily in the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran churches, as well as in some parts of the United Methodist Church...
. It forms a yoke about the neck, breast and shoulders and has two pendants hanging down in front and behind, and is ornamented with six crosses. Previously, the pallium worn by the pope was identical to those he granted to the primatesPrimate (religion)Primate is a title or rank bestowed on some bishops in certain Christian churches. Depending on the particular tradition, it can denote either jurisdictional authority or ceremonial precedence ....
, but in 2005 Pope Benedict XVI began to use a distinct papal pallium that is larger than the primatial, and was adorned with red crosses instead of black.
- "Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven", the image of two keys, one gold and one silver. The silver key symbolizes the power to bind and loose on Earth, and the gold key the power to bind and loose in Heaven.
- Ring of the FishermanRing of the FishermanThe Ring of the Fisherman, also known as the Piscatory Ring, Annulus Piscatoris and the Anello Piscatorio , is an official part of the regalia worn by the Pope, who is head of the Catholic Church and successor of Saint Peter, who was a fisherman by trade...
, a gold ring decorated with a depiction of St. Peter in a boat casting his net, with the name of the reigning Pope around it.
- Umbraculum (better known in the Italian form ombrellino) is a canopy or umbrella consisting of alternating red and gold stripes, which used to be carried above the pope in processions.
- Sedia gestatoriaSedia gestatoriaThe sedia gestatoria is a portable throne on which Popes were carried until 1978. It consists of a richly adorned, silk-covered armchair, fastened on a suppedaneum, on each side of which are two gilded rings; through these rings pass the long rods with which twelve footmen , in red uniforms, carry...
, a mobile throne carried by twelve footmen (palafrenieri) in red uniforms, accompanied by two attendants bearing flabella (fans made of white ostrich feathers), and sometimes a large canopyBaldachinA baldachin, or baldaquin , is a canopy of state over an altar or throne. It had its beginnings as a cloth canopy, but in other cases it is a sturdy, permanent architectural feature, particularly over high altars in cathedrals, where such a structure is more correctly called a ciborium when it is...
, carried by eight attendants. The use of the flabella was discontinued by Pope John Paul IPope John Paul IJohn Paul I , born Albino Luciani, , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church and as Sovereign of Vatican City from 26 August 1978 until his death 33 days later. His reign is among the shortest in papal history, resulting in the most recent Year of Three Popes...
. The use of the sedia gestatoria was discontinued by Pope John Paul IIPope John Paul IIBlessed Pope John Paul II , born Karol Józef Wojtyła , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of Vatican City from 16 October 1978 until his death on 2 April 2005, at of age. His was the second-longest documented pontificate, which lasted ; only Pope Pius IX ...
, being replaced by the so-called PopemobilePopemobilePopemobile is an informal name for the specially designed motor vehicles used by the pope during outdoor public appearances without having to employ the antiquated and often impractical sedia gestatoria. The Popemobile was designed to allow the pope to be more visible when greeting large crowds...
, each pope has his own Papal Coat of Arms
. Though unique for each pope, the arms are always surmounted by the two keys in saltire
(i.e., crossed over one another so as to form an X) behind the escutcheon (shield) (one silver key and one gold key, tied with a red cord), and above them a silver triregnum with three gold crowns and red infulae (lappet
s—two strips of fabric hanging from the back of the triregnum which fall over the neck and shoulders when worn). This is blazon
ed: "two keys in saltire or and argent, interlacing in the rings or, beneath a tiara argent, crowned or"). With the recent election of Benedict XVI in 2005, his personal coat of arms eliminated the papal tiara; a mitre
with three horizontal lines is used in its place, with the pallium, a papal symbol of authority more ancient than the tiara, the use of which is also granted to metropolitan archbishops as a sign of communion with the See of Rome, was added underneath of the shield. The distinctive feature of the crossed keys behind the shield was maintained. The omission of the tiara in the Pope's personal coat of arms, however, did not mean the disappearance of it from papal heraldry, since the coat of arms of the Holy See was kept unaltered.
most frequently associated with the pope is the yellow and white flag of Vatican City, with the arms of the Holy See (blazoned: "Gules, two keys in saltire or and argent, interlacing in the rings or, beneath a tiara argent, crowned or") on the right-hand side (the "fly") in the white half of the flag (the left-hand side—the "hoist"—is yellow). The pope's escucheon does not appear on the flag. This flag was first adopted in 1808, whereas the previous flag had been red and gold, the traditional colors of the papacy. Although Pope Benedict XVI replaced the triregnum with a mitre on his personal coat of arms, it has been retained on the flag.
Status and authority
First Vatican CouncilThe status and authority of the Pope in the Catholic Church was dogma
by the First Vatican Council
on 18 July 1870. In its Dogmatic Constitution of the Church of Christ, the Council established the following canons:
"If anyone says that the blessed Apostle Peter was not established by the Lord Christ as the chief of all the apostles, and the visible head of the whole militant Church, or, that the same received great honour but did not receive from the same our Lord Jesus Christ directly and immediately the primacy in true and proper jurisdiction: let him be anathema
If anyone says that it is not from the institution of Christ the Lord Himself, or by divine right that the blessed Peter has perpetual successors in the primacy over the universal Church, or that the Roman Pontiff is not the successor of blessed Peter in the same primacy, let him be anathema.
If anyone thus speaks, that the Roman Pontiff has only the office of inspection or direction, but not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the universal Church, not only in things which pertain to faith and morals, but also in those which pertain to the discipline and government of the Church spread over the whole world; or, that he possesses only the more important parts, but not the whole plenitude of this supreme power; or that this power of his is not ordinary and immediate, or over the churches altogether and individually, and over the pastors and the faithful altogether and individually: let him be anathema.
We, adhering faithfully to the tradition received from the beginning of the Christian faith, to the glory of God, our Saviour, the elevation of the Catholic religion and the salvation of Christian peoples, with the approbation of the sacred Council, teach and explain that the dogma has been divinely revealed: that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when carrying out the duty of the pastor and teacher of all Christians by his supreme apostolic authority he defines a doctrine of faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, through the divine assistance promised him in blessed Peter, operates with that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer wished that His church be instructed in defining doctrine on faith and morals; and so such definitions of the Roman Pontiff from himself, but not from the consensus of the Church, are unalterable. But if anyone presumes to contradict this definition of Ours, which may God forbid: let him be anathema."
Second Vatican Council
(1964), the Second Vatican Council
"Among the principal duties of bishops the preaching of the Gospel occupies an eminent place. For bishops are preachers of the faith, who lead new disciples to Christ, and they are authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach to the people committed to them the faith they must believe and put into practice, and by the light of the Holy Spirit illustrate that faith. They bring forth from the treasury of Revelation new things and old, making it bear fruit and vigilantly warding off any errors that threaten their flock. Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown so that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.
... this infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer willed His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine of faith and morals, extends as far as the deposit of Revelation extends, which must be religiously guarded and faithfully expounded. And this is the infallibility which the Roman Pontiff, the head of the college of bishops, enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith, by a definitive act he proclaims a doctrine of faith or morals. And therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled irreformable, since they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, promised to him in blessed Peter, and therefore they need no approval of others, nor do they allow an appeal to any other judgment. For then the Roman Pontiff is not pronouncing judgment as a private person, but as the supreme teacher of the universal Church, in whom the charism of infallibility of the Church itself is individually present, he is expounding or defending a doctrine of Catholic faith. The infallibility promised to the Church resides also in the body of Bishops, when that body exercises the supreme magisterium with the successor of Peter. To these definitions the assent of the Church can never be wanting, on account of the activity of that same Holy Spirit, by which the whole flock of Christ is preserved and progresses in unity of faith."
Politics of the Holy See
Residence and jurisdictionThe pope's official seat
is the Basilica of St. John Lateran
, and his official residence is the Palace of the Vatican. He also possesses a summer residence at Castel Gandolfo
, situated on the site of the ancient city of Alba Longa
. Until the time of the Avignon Papacy
, the residence of the Pope was the Lateran Palace
, donated by the Roman Emperor
Constantine the Great.
The Pope's ecclesiastical jurisdiction (the Holy See
) is distinct from his secular jurisdiction (Vatican City). It is the Holy See that conducts international relations; for hundreds of years, the papal court (the Roman Curia
) has functioned as the government of the Catholic Church.
The names "Holy See" and "Apostolic See" are ecclesiastical terminology for the ordinary jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome (including the Roman Curia); the pope's various honors, powers, and privileges within the Catholic Church and the international community derive from his Episcopate of Rome in lineal succession from the Apostle Saint Peter
(see Apostolic Succession
). Consequently, Rome has traditionally occupied a central position in the Catholic Church, although this is not necessarily so. The pope derives his pontificate from being Bishop of Rome but is not required to live there; according to the Latin formula ubi Papa, ibi Curia, wherever the Pope resides is the central government of the Church, provided that the pope is Bishop of Rome. As such, between 1309 and 1378, the popes lived in Avignon
, France (see Avignon Papacy
), a period often called the Babylonian Captivity
in allusion to the Biblical
Though the Pope is the diocesan Bishop of the Diocese of Rome
, he delegates most of the day-to-day work of leading the diocese to the Cardinal Vicar
, who assures direct episcopal oversight of the diocese's pastoral needs, not in his own name but in that of the Pope. The current Cardinal Vicar is Agostino Vallini
, who was appointed to the office in June 2008.
of the Roman Empire
in the 4th century did not confer upon bishops civil authority within the state, the gradual withdrawal of imperial authority during the 5th century left the pope the senior imperial civilian official in Rome, as bishops were increasingly directing civil affairs in other cities of the Western Empire. This status as a secular and civil ruler was vividly displayed by Pope Leo I
's confrontation with Attila in 452. The first expansion of papal rule outside of Rome came in 728 with the Donation of Sutri
, which in turn was substantially increased in 754, when the Frankish ruler Pippin the Younger
gave to the pope the land from his conquest of the Lombards
. The pope may have utilized the forged Donation of Constantine
to gain this land, which formed the core of the Papal States
. This document, accepted as genuine until the 15th century, states that Constantine I
placed the entire Western Empire of Rome under papal rule. In 800 Pope Leo III
the Frankish ruler Charlemagne
as Roman Emperor
, a major step toward establishing what later became known as the Holy Roman Empire
; from that date onward the popes claimed the prerogative to crown the Emperor, though the right fell into disuse after the coronation of Charles V
in 1530. Pope Pius VII
was present at the coronation of Napoleon I
in 1804, but did not actually perform the crowning. As mentioned above, the pope's sovereignty over the Papal States ended in 1870 with their annexation by Italy.
Popes like Alexander VI
, an ambitious if spectacularly corrupt politician, and Pope Julius II
, a formidable general and statesman, were not afraid to use power to achieve their own ends, which included increasing the power of the papacy. This political and temporal authority was demonstrated through the papal role in the Holy Roman Empire (especially prominent during periods of contention with the Emperors, such as during the Pontificates of Pope Gregory VII
and Pope Alexander III
). Papal bull
, and excommunication
(or the threat thereof) have been used many times to increase papal power. The Bull Laudabiliter
in 1155 authorized Henry II of England
to invade Ireland. In 1207, Innocent III placed England under interdict until King John
made his kingdom a fiefdom
to the Pope, complete with yearly tribute
, saying, "we offer and freely yield...to our lord Pope Innocent III and his catholic successors, the whole kingdom of England and the whole kingdom of Ireland with all their rights and appurtenences for the remission of our sins". The Bull Inter caetera
in 1493 led to the Treaty of Tordesillas
in 1494, which divided the world into areas of Spanish and Portuguese rule. The Bull Regnans in Excelsis
in 1570 excommunicated Elizabeth I of England
and declared that all her subjects were released from all allegiance to her. The Bull Inter Gravissimas
in 1582 established the Gregorian Calendar
International positionUnder international law, a serving head of state
has sovereign immunity
from the jurisdiction of the courts of other countries, though not from that of international tribunals. This immunity is sometimes loosely referred to as "diplomatic immunity
", which is, strictly speaking, the immunity enjoyed by the diplomatic representatives of a head of state.
International law treats the Holy See
, essentially the central government of the Roman Catholic Church, as the juridical equal of a state. It is distinct from the state of Vatican City
, existing for many centuries before the foundation of the latter. (It is common, however, for publications to use "Holy See", "Vatican/Vatican City", and even "Rome" interchangeably, and incorrectly.) Most countries of the world maintain the same form of diplomatic relations with the Holy See that they entertain with other states. Even countries without those diplomatic relations participate in international organizations of which the Holy See is a full member.
It is as head of the Holy See, not of Vatican City, that the U.S. Justice Department ruled that the Pope enjoys head-of-state immunity. This head-of-state immunity, recognized by the United States, must be distinguished from that envisaged under the United States' Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act
of 1976, which, while recognizing the basic immunity of foreign governments from being sued in American courts, lays down nine exceptions, including commercial activity and actions in the United States by agents or employees of the foreign governments. It was in relation to the latter that, in November 2008, the United States Court of Appeals
in Cincinnati decided that a case over sexual abuse by Catholic priests could proceed, provided the plaintiffs could prove that the bishops accused of negligent supervision were acting as employees or agents of the Holy See and were following official Holy See policy.
In April 2010 there was press coverage in Britain concerning a proposed plan by atheist campaigners and a prominent barrister
to have Pope Benedict XVI arrested and prosecuted in the UK for alleged offences, dating from several decades before, in failing to take appropriate action regarding Catholic sex abuse cases and concerning their disputing his immunity from prosecution in that country. This was generally dismissed as "unrealistic and spurious". Another barrister said that it was a "matter of embarrassment that a senior British lawyer would want to allow himself to be associated with such a silly idea".
Objections to the papacy
Orthodox, Anglican and Old Catholic churchesOther traditional Christian churches (Assyrian Church of the East
, the Oriental Orthodox Church
, the Eastern Orthodox Church
, the Old Catholic Church
, the Anglican Communion
, the Independent Catholic Churches
, etc.) accept the doctrine of Apostolic Succession
and, to varying extents, papal claims to a primacy of honour while generally rejecting that the pope is the successor to Peter in any unique sense not true of any other bishop. Primacy is regarded as a consequence of the pope's position as bishop of the original capital city of the Roman Empire
, a definition explicitly spelled out in the 28th canon
of the Council of Chalcedon
. These churches see no foundation to papal claims of universal immediate jurisdiction, or to claims of papal infallibility
. Several of these churches refer to such claims as ultramontanism
Protestant denominationsMany Christian denominations reject the claims of Petrine primacy
of honor, Petrine primacy of jurisdiction, and papal infallibility. These denominations vary from simply not accepting the Pope's claim to authority as legitimate and valid, to believing that the Pope is the Antichrist
from 1 John 2:18, the Man of Sin
from 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12, and the Beast out of the Earth
from Revelation 13:11-18. The sweeping rejection includes some denominations of Lutherans: Confessional Lutheran
s hold that the pope is the Antichrist, stating that this article of faith is part of a quia rather than quatenus subscription to the Book of Concord
. In 1932, the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod
(LCMS) adopted A Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod, which a small number of Lutheran church bodies now hold. Statement 43, Of the Antichrist:
43. As to the Antichrist we teach that the prophecies of the Holy Scriptures concerning the Antichrist, 2 Thess. 2:3-12;1 John 2:18, have been fulfilled in the Pope of Rome and his dominion. All the features of the Antichrist as drawn in these prophecies, including the most abominable and horrible ones, for example, that the Antichrist "as God sitteth in the temple of God", 2 Thess. 2:4; that he anathematizes the very heart of the Gospel of Christ, that is, the doctrine of the forgiveness of sins by grace alone, for Christ's sake alone, through faith alone, without any merit or worthiness in man (Rom. 3:20-28; Gal. 2:16); that he recognizes only those as members of the Christian Church who bow to his authority; and that, like a deluge, he had inundated the whole Church with his antichristian doctrines till God revealed him through the Reformation—these very features are the outstanding characteristics of the Papacy. (Cf. Smalcald Articles, Triglot, p. 515, Paragraphs 39-41; p. 401, Paragraph 45; M. pp. 336, 258.) Hence we subscribe to the statement of our Confessions that the Pope is "the very Antichrist." (Smalcald Articles, Triglot, p. 475, Paragraph 10; M., p. 308.)
The claim of temporal power over all secular governments, including territorial claims in Italy, raises objection. The papacy's complex relationship with secular states such as the Roman
Empires are also objections. Some disapprove of the autocratic character of the papal office. In Western Christianity
these objections both contributed to and are products of the Protestant Reformation
AntipopesGroups sometimes form around antipope
s, who claim the Pontificate without being canonically and properly elected to it.
Traditionally, this term was reserved for claimants with a significant following of cardinals or other clergy. The existence of an antipope is usually due either to doctrinal controversy within the Church (heresy
) or to confusion as to who is the legitimate pope at the time (see schism). Briefly in the 15th century, three separate lines of Popes claimed authenticity (see Papal Schism
). Even Catholics don't all agree whether certain historical figures were Popes or antipopes. Though antipope movements were significant at one time, they are now overwhelmingly minor fringe causes.
Other uses of the title "pope"In the earlier centuries of Christianity, the title "Pope", meaning "father", had been used by all bishops. Some popes used the term and others didn't. Eventually, the title became associated especially with the Bishop of Rome. In a few cases, the term is used for other Christian clerical authorities.
In the Roman Catholic ChurchThe "Black Pope" is a name that was popularly, but unofficially, given to the Superior General of the Society of Jesus
due to the Jesuits'
importance within the Church. This name, based on the black colour of his cassock, was used to suggest a parallel between him and the "White Pope" (since the time of Pope Pius V
the Popes dress in white) and the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples
(formerly called the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith), whose red cardinal's cassock gave him the name of the "Red Pope" in view of the authority over all territories that were not considered in some way Catholic. In the present time this cardinal has power over mission territories for Catholicism, essentially the Churches of Africa and Asia, but in the past his competence extended also to all lands where Protestants
or Eastern Christianity
was dominant. Some remnants of this situation remain, with the result that, for instance, New Zealand is still in the care of this Congregation.
In the Eastern ChurchesSince the papacy of Heraclas in the 3rd century, the Bishop of the Alexandria in both the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria and the Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria
continue to be called "Pope", the former being called "Coptic Pope" or, more properly, "Pope and Patriarch of All Africa on the Holy Orthodox and Apostolic Throne of Saint Mark the Evangelist and Holy Apostle" and the last called "Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa".
In the Bulgarian Orthodox Church
, Russian Orthodox Church
and Serbian Orthodox Church
, it is not unusual for a village priest to be called a "pope" ("поп" pop). However, this should be differentiated from the words used for the head of the Catholic Church (Bulgarian "папа" papa, Russian "папа римский" papa rimskiy).
In New Religious MovementsSome New Religious Movements
, especially those that have disassociated themselves from the Catholic Church yet retain a Catholic hierarchical framework, will use the designation "Pope" for a movement's founder or current leader. One example in Africa is the Legio Maria Church of Africa
. Another example is Cao Dai
, a Vietnamese faith that duplicates the Catholic hierarchy, which is declared legitimate by religious authorities in Cao Dai due to the fact that, according to them, God
created both Catholicism and Cao Dai.
was a decade, a number of those whose reign lengths can be determined from contemporary historical data are the following:
- Pius IXPope Pius IXBlessed Pope Pius IX , born Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti, was the longest-reigning elected Pope in the history of the Catholic Church, serving from 16 June 1846 until his death, a period of nearly 32 years. During his pontificate, he convened the First Vatican Council in 1869, which decreed papal...
(1846–1878): 31 years, 7 months and 23 days (11,560 days).
- John Paul IIPope John Paul IIBlessed Pope John Paul II , born Karol Józef Wojtyła , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of Vatican City from 16 October 1978 until his death on 2 April 2005, at of age. His was the second-longest documented pontificate, which lasted ; only Pope Pius IX ...
(1978–2005): 26 years, 5 months and 18 days (9,665 days).
- Leo XIIIPope Leo XIIIPope Leo XIII , born Vincenzo Gioacchino Raffaele Luigi Pecci to an Italian comital family, was the 256th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, reigning from 1878 to 1903...
(1878–1903): 25 years, 5 months and 1 day (9,281 days).
- Pius VIPope Pius VIPope Pius VI , born Count Giovanni Angelo Braschi, was Pope from 1775 to 1799.-Early years:Braschi was born in Cesena...
(1775–1799): 24 years, 6 months and 15 days (8,962 days).
- Adrian IPope Adrian IPope Adrian was pope from February 1, 772 to December 25, 795. He was the son of Theodore, a Roman nobleman.Shortly after Adrian's accession the territory ruled by the papacy was invaded by Desiderius, king of the Lombards, and Adrian was compelled to seek the assistance of the Frankish king...
(772–795): 23 years, 10 months and 25 days (8,729 days).
- Pius VIIPope Pius VIIPope Pius VII , born Barnaba Niccolò Maria Luigi Chiaramonti, was a monk, theologian and bishop, who reigned as Pope from 14 March 1800 to 20 August 1823.-Early life:...
(1800–1823): 23 years, 5 months and 7 days (8,560 days).
- Alexander IIIPope Alexander IIIPope Alexander III , born Rolando of Siena, was Pope from 1159 to 1181. He is noted in history for laying the foundation stone for the Notre Dame de Paris.-Church career:...
(1159–1181): 21 years, 11 months and 24 days (8,029 days).
- St. Sylvester I (314–335): 21 years, 11 months and 1 day (8,005 days).
- St. Leo IPope Leo IPope Leo I was pope from September 29, 440 to his death.He was an Italian aristocrat, and is the first pope of the Catholic Church to have been called "the Great". He is perhaps best known for having met Attila the Hun in 452, persuading him to turn back from his invasion of Italy...
(440–461): 21 years, 1 month, and 13 days. (7,713 days).
- Urban VIIIPope Urban VIIIPope Urban VIII , born Maffeo Barberini, was pope from 1623 to 1644. He was the last pope to expand the papal territory by force of arms, and was a prominent patron of the arts and reformer of Church missions...
(1623–1644): 20 years, 11 months and 24 days (7,664 days).
is thought to have reigned for over 30 years (AD 29 – 64?/67?), but the exact length is not reliably known.
- Urban VIIPope Urban VIIPope Urban VII , born Giovanni Battista Castagna, was Pope for thirteen days in September 1590. He was of Genoese origin, although born in Rome. He was created Cardinal-Priest of S. Marcello in 1584...
(15–27 September 1590): reigned for 13 calendar days, died before coronationCoronationA coronation is a ceremony marking the formal investiture of a monarch and/or their consort with regal power, usually involving the placement of a crown upon their head and the presentation of other items of regalia...
- Boniface VIPope Boniface VIPope Boniface VI, pope, a native of Rome, was elected in April 896 as a result of riots soon after the death of Pope Formosus. Prior to his reign, he had twice incurred a sentence of deprivation of orders, as a subdeacon and as a priest...
(April 896): reigned for 16 calendar days
- Celestine IVPope Celestine IVPope Celestine IV , born Goffredo da Castiglione, was pope from October 25, 1241 to November 10, 1241.Born in Milan, Goffredo or Godfrey is often referred to as son of a sister of Pope Urban III , but this information is without foundation...
(25 October – 10 November 1241): reigned for 17 calendar days, died before consecration.
- Theodore IIPope Theodore IIPope Theodore II was ordained as a priest by Pope Stephen V; also his brother Theotius was a bishop. He was pope for twenty days during December 897 before he died. He reinstated the clerics who had been forced from office by Pope Stephen VI, recognizing the validity of the ordinations of Pope...
(December 897): reigned for 20 calendar days
- SisinniusPope SisinniusPope Sisinnius was Pope for about three weeks in 708.A Syrian by birth, Sisinnius's father's name was John. The paucity of donations to the papacy during his reign indicate that he was probably not from the aristocracy.Sisinnius was selected as...
(15 January – 4 February 708): reigned for 21 calendar days
- Marcellus IIPope Marcellus IIPope Marcellus II , born Marcello Cervini degli Spannochi, was Pope from 9 April 1555 to 1 May 1555, succeeding Pope Julius III. Before his accession as Pope he had been Cardinal-Priest of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. He is the most recent Pope to choose to retain his birth name as his regnal name...
(9 April – 1 May 1555): reigned for 22 calendar days
- Damasus IIPope Damasus IIPope Damasus II , born Poppo, Pope from July 17, 1048 to August 9, 1048, was the second of the German pontiffs nominated by Emperor Henry III . A native of Bavaria, he was the third German to become Pope and had one of the shortest papal reigns...
(17 July – 9 August 1048): reigned for 24 calendar days
- Pius IIIPope Pius IIIPope Pius III , born Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini, was Pope from September 22 to October 18, 1503.-Career:...
(22 September – 18 October 1503): reigned for 27 calendar days
- Leo XIPope Leo XIPope Leo XI , born Alessandro Ottaviano de' Medici, was Pope from 1 April 1605 to 27 April of the same year.-Biography:...
(1–27 April 1605): reigned for 27 calendar days
- Benedict VPope Benedict VPope Benedict V , Pope in 964, was elected by the Romans on the death of Pope John XII . However the Holy Roman Emperor Otto I did not approve of the choice and had him deposed after only a month and the ex-Pope was carried off to Hamburg and was placed under the care of Adaldag, Archbishop of...
(22 May – 23 June 964): reigned for 33 calendar days
- John Paul IPope John Paul IJohn Paul I , born Albino Luciani, , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church and as Sovereign of Vatican City from 26 August 1978 until his death 33 days later. His reign is among the shortest in papal history, resulting in the most recent Year of Three Popes...
(26 August – 28 September 1978): reigned for 33 calendar days.
(23–26 March 752), died of apoplexy
three days after his election, and before his consecration
as a bishop. He is not recognized as a valid Pope, but was added to the lists of popes in the 15th century as Stephen II, causing difficulties in enumerating later Popes named Stephen. He was removed in 1961 from the Vatican's
- CaesaropapismCaesaropapismCaesaropapism is the idea of combining the power of secular government with, or making it superior to, the spiritual authority of the Church; especially concerning the connection of the Church with government. The term caesaropapism was coined by Max Weber, who defined it as follows: “a secular,...
- History of the PapacyHistory of the PapacyThe history of the papacy, the office held by the Pope as head of the Catholic Church, spans from the time of Saint Peter to present day.During the Early Church, the bishops of Rome enjoyed no temporal power until the time of Constantine...
- Investiture ControversyInvestiture ControversyThe Investiture Controversy or Investiture Contest was the most significant conflict between Church and state in medieval Europe. In the 11th and 12th centuries, a series of Popes challenged the authority of European monarchies over control of appointments, or investitures, of church officials such...
- Leaders of Christianity
- Legends surrounding the papacyLegends surrounding the papacyThe papacy has been surrounded by numerous legends. Among the most famous are the claims that the Papal Tiara contains the number of the beast inscriptions on the Tiara, that a woman was once elected pope, or that current pope, Benedict XVI, will be the penultimate Pope...
- List of canonised popes
- List of popes
- Papal CoronationPapal CoronationA papal coronation was the ceremony of the placing of the Papal Tiara on a newly elected pope. The first recorded papal coronation was that of Pope Celestine II in 1143. Soon after his coronation in 1963, Pope Paul VI abandoned the practice of wearing the tiara. His successors have chosen not to...
- Papal InaugurationPapal InaugurationThe Papal Inauguration is a liturgical service of the Catholic Church within Mass celebrated in the Roman Rite but with elements of Byzantine Rite for the ecclesiastical investiture of the Pope...
- Papal namePapal nameA papal name is a regnal name taken by popes. Beginning in the sixth century, some popes adopted a new name upon their accession to the papacy; this became customary in the 10th century, and every pope since the 16th century has done so.-History:...
- Papal regalia and insigniaPapal regalia and insigniaPapal regalia and insignia are the official items of attire and decoration proper to the Pope in his capacity as the head of the Roman Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State.- Regalia :...
- Papal SlippersPapal SlippersThe Papal Slippers are an historical accoutrement worn by the Bishop of Rome. The papal slippers were a form of episcopal sandals worn by bishops. However, unlike the episcopal sandals, which change with the liturgical colour, the papal slippers were always red...
- PontiffPontiffA pontiff was, in Roman antiquity, a member of the principal college of priests . The term "pontiff" was later applied to any high or chief priest and, in ecclesiastical usage, to a bishop and more particularly to the Bishop of Rome, the Pope or "Roman Pontiff".-Etymology:The English term derives...
- Prophecy of the PopesProphecy of the PopesThe Prophecy of the Popes, attributed to Saint Malachy, is a list of 112 short phrases in Latin. They purport to describe each of the Roman Catholic popes , beginning with Pope Celestine II and concluding with the successor of current pope Benedict XVI, a pope described in the prophecy as "Peter...
- SedevacantismSedevacantismSedevacantism is the position held by a minority of Traditionalist Catholics who hold that the present occupant of the papal see is not truly Pope and that, for lack of a valid Pope, the see has been vacant since the death of either Pope Pius XII in 1958 or Pope John XXIII in 1963.Sedevacantists...
- Brusher, Joseph H. Popes Through The Ages. Princeton: D. Van Nostland Company, Inc., 1959.
- Chamberlin, E.R. The Bad Popes. 1969. Reprint: Barnes and Noble, 1993. ISBN 978-0-88029-116-3.
- Dollison, John Pope-pourri. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994. ISBN 978-0-671-88615-8.
- Kelly, J.N.D. The Oxford Dictionary of Popes. Oxford: University Press, 1986. ISBN 0-19-213964-9.
- Maxwell-Stuart, P.G. Chronicle of the Popes: The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Papacy from St. Peter to the Present; with 308 Illustrations, 105 in Color. London: Thames and Hudson, 1997. ISBN 0-500-01798-0.
- Norwich, John JuliusJohn Julius NorwichJohn Julius Cooper, 2nd Viscount Norwich CVO — known as John Julius Norwich — is an English historian, travel writer and television personality.-Early life:...
. The Popes: a History. ChattoChattoChatto may refer to:* Chatto , Chiricahua Apache chief* Beth Chatto , plantswoman, garden designer and author* Virendranath Chattopadhyaya , prominent Bengali Indian revolutionary...
- Catholic Encyclopedia entry
- Pope Endurance League - Sortable list of Popes
- Data Base of more than 23,000 documents of the Popes in latin and modern languages
- The Holy See - The Holy Father—website for the past and present Holy Fathers (since Pope Leo XIIIPope Leo XIIIPope Leo XIII , born Vincenzo Gioacchino Raffaele Luigi Pecci to an Italian comital family, was the 256th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, reigning from 1878 to 1903...
- "papacy." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online
- Origins of Peter as Pope
- The Authority of the Pope: Part I
- The Authority of the Pope: Part II